“Rainbowland,” a song by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus celebrating acceptance, was recently banned from the set list at a spring concert at a Wisconsin elementary school.
Sarah Schindler’s first grade daughter came home from school last week, eager to show her mom the songs she would be performing at the spring concert. She looked up the songs on YouTube, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, “Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog from “The Muppet Movie” and a song she had never heard before: “Rainbowland” by Dolly Parton and Miley . Cyrus.
Schindler said they were excited: “We love Dolly Parton!”
But a few days ago, her daughter came home from school, and as soon as she walked through the door, she broke the news. “We can no longer sing it. We can’t sing ‘Rainbow Connection’ and we can’t sing ‘Rainbowland’”.
Schindler immediately contacted Melissa Tempel, her daughter’s teacher, as well as the school’s principal, and phoned the school district’s superintendent. They told him that the administration had banned the songs, considering them controversial.
Tempel, a first-grade bilingual teacher at Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha, Wisconsin, seemed as upset as Schindler and her daughter. On Tuesday she tweeted, “My first graders were so excited to sing Rainbowland for our spring concert, but our administration has banned it. When will it end?”
According to Schindler, the school board had “a conservative turn” in recent years following community uproar over COVID-19 mitigation strategies. “With that there have been some policy changes that have caused some controversy in our community,” he told The Times via phone call on Friday.
“One of them is a hot topic policy that says teachers can’t have any kind of signage that could be considered political. … The discussion of pronouns with the students was another thing that came up. And teachers are not allowed to wear rainbows.”
Tempel wrote on Twitter “4 years ago we had an active diversity team and had @sharroky as our district equity consultant. Now we are Florida.”
Leigh Radichel Tracy is another Waukesha resident with children enrolled in the district who spoke to The Times about the ongoing controversy in the community. “The Waukesha School District has really cracked down on anything LBGTQ,” she told The Times via Facebook Messenger. “So the fact that this song is a ‘problem’ hasn’t come as a surprise in any way.
“My daughter is 17 years old and has been in the marching band community for four years. It is a very welcoming community for children who are LBGTQ. She has a lot of friends who identify as part of that community, so it hurts her deeply,” she continued. “All Miley and Dolly say is that they want to live in a world that is accepting, without judgment, and where people can be who they want to be.
“It is very sad that this is viewed as a ‘controversial issue’ by the Waukesha School District. It’s a song about a beautiful place of acceptance.”
The lyrics to “Rainbowland” include the lines, “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in paradise/Where we’re free to be exactly who we are” and “Let’s dig in deep/Let’s put judgment and fear aside.” ”
Schindler said that he thought the fuss over the first grade concert was silly and that rainbows had always been associated with spring. He heard the song by Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton and couldn’t understand why it would be considered controversial.
“I know, Miley Cyrus has a past, in the spotlight, you know, talking about drug use, sexuality and all that,” he said. “And Dolly Parton supports drag queens, and you know, that’s another thing that happens in our country these days.
“It seems that because of these extreme policies that our school board has implemented in the last year or two, the administration, principals, and teachers are now beginning to question all of their options,” Schindler continued.
According to a Thursday cheep from Tempel, Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection” was reinstated on the set list after parents complained to administrators.
But according to Schindler, “Rainbowland” by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus remains banned, as it is considered too controversial for first graders.
The Times contacted the superintendent of the Waukesha school district. James Sebert for comment but did not immediately respond.